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SoL Theatre promises a wild ride with young adult production

Courtesy of SOL Theatre Company

When people think of what makes their lives worth living, each individual will think of something different. In Stage of Life Theatre’s upcoming production of the musical Ride the Cyclone, six departed teens show audiences what is worthwhile for the opportunity to return to life. KDNK spoke with Jennifer Johnson, director of the show and executive director of SoL, about what audiences can expect from the production.

" Not to sound cliche, but it's unlike anything we've ever produced before. It's unlike a lot of things I've even seen in the Valley before, and it's fast become my favorite musical. It is a rollercoaster ride of a show. It's every genre of music across the board, and dance styles and acting styles, and high drama and broad comedy and commedia del arte.

And it's unlike anything you've seen. The students who are in this show decide within the context of the show that their 17, 18 years on Earth were well lived years. And people always say, if you die young, then it was a wasted life. And that is not how they feel about their lives. And I think that's a really beautiful message and a good reminder for teachers and parents and older people in their lives that there's this, there's this constant, oh, you just, there's still so much to learn or you don't know, or you're not yet, or you haven't yet. And every individual that you meet is the sum of their experiences right in that moment. So it's about meeting children and young adults in that moment in their lives.

And who are you right now? And I can't think of a more relevant message for this time in our world. And yeah, there's a lot of strange themes. I mean, it's about six kids who die on a rollercoaster, one of whom is decapitated, and kid doesn't have any memories. So was hers a wasted life because she can't remember it?
We don't know. And it's about them arguing about what makes a life. And which one of them deserves to go back to live, and how do you make that argument? A lot of companies also do it with older actors, and we've very specifically done this show with high school aged actors and college students who are in I, either early college or who have just graduated from college, but they're still in a place in their life where they're figuring out who they are. It's very challenging material. It's very mature subject matter. The language is more mature than any show we've ever done. The comedy is, is more mature than we've ever done. The choreography is more mature. There's a a lot that, it's why it's PG 13.

There's swears, there are F-bombs in our show, which is a real departure for a soul show. The thing to me that made it worth it was none of it is done for the shock value. Anything that is said, anything that is done, anything that is experienced is done very specifically to advance the plot and to have us learn about and connect to these characters.

It's a dark comedy, so we think it's hilarious. I'm hoping everybody else thinks it's hilarious, but there is a lot of broad comedy because. Mixed in among the very nuanced messages of, you know, what makes a life first and foremost? It's funny because when you throw these six kids in Catholic school uniforms in this afterworld, that's a carnival space.

Which in and of itself, the image of it is hilarious and the way that it's put together. But it's also when they start kind of stripping down who they had to be when they were on earth. And the leader of the group, her name is, uh, she's a girl named Ocean and she's a very type A personality. And when the social structure that she has always been on top of has broken down, nobody has to care anymore.

All bets are off. Everybody's fighting for their lives, watching her. It's my favorite thing is watching Ocean Story arc. As she dissolves, as people start rebelling against her, as people start pushing back on what may have been this very passive aggressive bullying that she had been doing with all of them, she's the leader of this ragtag little group, but they were all kind of misfits within their social structures.
And so when they get to this space where they can be whoever they want to be, the other fun part of the show is that every time one of them starts singing and dancing, the other gets sucked in. Like, almost like they lose control of who they are and they're just in the background and they're doing their songs and they're singing it, dancing and doing their choreography.
And then at the end of every song they're like, whoa, what? Just why? Where did that come from? And it almost pokes fun at the whole idea of musical, where people are just breaking it into song and dance. And in this world it's like, you're not doing that because you voluntarily did it until the end when they're all singing about whatever is next and have made their decision because they have to vote on who goes back to live.

Yeah, it's, it's mainly watching Ocean's Head explode. Every time someone stops listening to her. She's just been in control of every corner of her life, her whole existence. You kinda gotta love that again. It is a strong PG 13. It is. There are F-bombs in the songs. There is a headless character. There is conversations around losing virginity, there is drag. It's funny. In another time I would've said there are two boys kissing, but I feel like. That shouldn't be a thing anymore. So if it is, you skip the ticket, but also get over it. And out in the world, your kids are hearing worse. They're seeing worse. And this is a space in which we're pushing boundaries because it's a safe space in which to push boundaries.

Come one, come all. If you have a 10 year old who you think can handle it, there's a 10 year old in the show. She plays a rat. But I wouldn't shy away from coming to see it just because of the language, because the message is so powerful and beautiful and really is about meeting them where they are as. As young people and I can think of no message that's more SOL than that."

Hattison Rensberry has a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and Drawing, but has worked for newsrooms in various capacities since 2019.
She also provides Editorial Design for the Sopris Sun.